The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is saddened to hear of the December 19 passing of Johnny Isakson, who was not only a national political titan but a longtime personal friend of the Foundation and champion of its ideas.
Isakson’s initiative took him all the way to the floor of the U.S. Senate. His approach incorporated compromise, friendship and good policy. A conservative who worked across the aisle to craft solutions on kitchen-table issues such as education, tax cuts and healthcare, he was a tireless advocate for Georgia.
Isakson’s commitment to policy over politics made him a natural ally of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, even speaking at our annual Freedom Award dinner.
Current and former leaders of the Foundation paid tribute to Isakson:
“Johnny Isakson was rightly one of the most beloved figures in Georgia politics. He was a true gentleman and a true statesman. He sought out the place where his conservative principles intersected with what was possible in the moment, and worked from there to do right by Georgians and all Americans. He was generous with his time and his wisdom, and he never stopped trying to bring about positive change – even after leaving the U.S. Senate for health reasons, through the Isakson Initiative for research into neurocognitive diseases. Our thoughts are with his family and the many, many people whose lives he touched.” – Kyle Wingfield, President and CEO, Georgia Public Policy Foundation
“The fact that many people referred to him simply as ‘Johnny’ tells you a lot. He somehow knew everyone by name, whether he was in Washington or Vidalia. He earned friendship, trust and respect even from those with whom he didn’t agree on policy. Although he did not get the credit, and did not want it, I can think of many great projects over the years that would not exist without Johnny Isakson. We are forever in his debt for his friendship and support, and his championing of the ideas that came out of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which helped make them a reality.” – Kelly McCutchen, Georgia Public Policy Foundation Board of Trustees, former President and CEO of the Foundation
“Johnny Isakson has been a close friend for nearly 50 years and his unfailingly good advice and counsel will be missed by me and all who knew him. Parkinson’s took his mobility but his keen sense of humor never left him. He not only attended my surprise birthday party in February but surprised everyone there with a resounding rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’! His leadership in the state, in Congress and in our nation will be remembered as long as we prize honor and integrity in our elected leadership. The Foundation benefited from his support and our Country benefited from his leadership. I will miss him greatly. We are not likely to see his equal again. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dianne and his family.” – Rogers Wade, Chairman of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation Board of Trustees, former President and CEO of the Foundation
The ties that bind: When the Georgia Public Policy Foundation awarded the prestigious Freedom Award in 2011 to Rogers Wade, its former President and CEO, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia was among those at his side. When Johnny gave his farewell speech from the floor of the U.S. Senate in 2019, Rogers Wade, his longtime friend and now the Foundation’s Board Chairman, was among those in the audience.
After a four-decade-long political career, Isakson retired from the U.S. Senate in 2019 to focus on his health. His decision marked the end of an era in Georgia politics, and tributes poured in, including from the Foundation’s Kyle Wingfield. Isakson remained active in his Isakson Initiative, dedicated to raising awareness and funding for research into neurocognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Johnny will be sorely missed. We extend our condolences to his wife, Dianne, and his three children and nine grandchildren.